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Mister Spiffy Counts his Pennies

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Count your penniesFinance – n. The management of pecuniary [monetary, financial] affairs.

Mister Spiffy Says: "Why do I save every penny? Why, because back in my day you could buy an entire meal with a penny!"

Now to figure out just how you plan on paying for all of this.  Are you a millionaire philanthropist?  If you are,  Mister Spiffy is proud of you.  Just skip this part.  If not, stay with me here.   You’ll probably be needing some ideas on admission fees, dues, auctions, raffles – some good ways of financing the fun.  Creating a budget, collecting money, and using it appropriately are all-important aspects of a successful reunion. This is why it’s important to have someone with a good aptitude for money and figures to act as a treasurer.  Also, not that I’m suggesting anything about your family, but…try to make sure your treasurer is – well, fairly honest in his or her dealings.  You know what I mean?  If you don’t, just never mind.

Creating a Budget
Your first financial task as part of the reunion committee is to create a budget for anything that is to be paid for or reimbursed by the reunion committee.  Make sure you include every little bitsy teensy weensy item you can possibly think of to put on the budget, no matter how small it may be.  A lot of small items can add up in a hurry (remember what I told you about all those postage stamps)?  Plus, it’s always a good idea to allow a little bit of leeway in the budget to cover any unexpected expenses. ("What? When did this sugar price go up three cents a bag?  I can’t afford these three extra cents!  My budget can’t handle it!")

Some expenses will be paid directly by your attending family members (i.e., travel, hotel, perhaps a couple of meals, et cetera), so you don’t need to budget for those.   But, do make sure that you specify what is and what isn’t included in the ticket price when you send out the invitations.

Collecting Money
Once you have figured out just how much the reunion is going to cost you, you have to determine just where you plan on getting said money. Remember – Mister Spiffy says be sensitive to the financial situation of your attending family members. You don’t want to plan a reunion that hardly anyone can afford. That’s not much of a reunion at all – just sitting around and talking to yourself, or maybe Mister Spiffy. If you are planning a fancy or expensive reunion, such as a cruise or some other special trip, make sure you give your relatives at least a year or two advance notice so that they can save up, unless you feel like paying for them.

Charging an admission fee is one common way to fund your reunion. To figure out the cost per person, fall back on your basic training in seventh grade math. Averages, remember? If not, Mister Spiffy will supply you with the formula – take your final cost and divide it by the number of people attending. At this point you will have to do some adjusting if you plan on creating special rates and/or discounts for seniors (senior citizens, not seniors in high school or college) and small children. Explain completely in your invitation mailers the ticket price (you know, cost per person or family) and spell out in great detail what this does and does not include.

Always set a deadline sometime in advance of the reunion date by which at least a percentage of the ticket price is required. Unless you want to cover the costs yourself and just get paid back, you will be needing money for advance fees and deposits. Also, if tickets are purchased in advance, people are less likely to cancel at the last moment. It’s how everyone functions. That way you won’t end up with a lot of empty chairs or uneaten food that you paid too much for.

Keep good and accurate records of how much money is collected from whom, what the actual charges are for budgeted items and when you receive the money. Have a log of expenses, such as long distance phone calls and postage. Using a spreadsheet or home accounting software (if you can actually get the stupid program to work – Mister Spiffy always has a hard time with computers and their associates) will simplify this task.

Fund Raising
If you don't want to just collect money from each of the relatives, you might want to do a little fund raising.  Even if you do collect dues or admissions, a little fund raising can earn some extra money to make your reunion a little more "spiffy".

Holding an auction at your family reunion is another (and more creative, in Mister Spiffy’s opinion) way to make money to support your family reunion. In fact, if this is successful enough, you can often make enough money to help fund your next reunion as well (or at least provide the seed money to get the present reunion’s spawn started). Have each family member provide at least one item up for auction. Some nice examples or fun ideas to get them started are the following:

  • White elephant gifts
  • Surprise bags
  • Homemade crafts
  • Baked goods or deserts
  • Mister Spiffy’s favorite – used doorknobs to add to his collection

Then just follow along the basic auction idea. Auction it off to the highest bidder; it’s not too hard. As long as everyone realizes this is to help fund the reunion, it can be fun even with the silliest auction items. You’d be surprised what people are willing to pay for a pencil with a pom-pom glued on top when it’s all for a good cause like fun, Mister-Spiffy-style family reunions.

A raffle can be a popular and successful fundraising activity. Have the reunion committee purchase a few nice items, making sure that they would be popular with the family members.  Don't pick clothes, unless everyone in your family is the same size.   If you’re camping, try a sleeping bag, lantern, or other camping gear that they may be desperate for by that time.  Then just sell raffle tickets, making sure that you sell enough tickets at whatever price you choose (a buck or two, I’d guess) to cover the cost of the item you’re raffling off and put a significant profit in for the reunion.

Mister Spiffy’s Helpful Hints Keep an eye on your pennies.  Those things have a tendency of slipping away without you noticing, and the amounts disappearing grow as they are urged on by peer pressure from all the other pennies.  You must be very disciplined to stay within your budget.